A win-win for net zero and building back greener

Dr Zainab Dangana
Dr Zainab Dangana Sustainable Technology Solutions
A win-win for net zero and building back greener
Home Insights A win-win for net zero and building back greener

With climate crisis looming and the net zero carbon target even closer, businesses across the UK are putting action plans in place to deliver on their environmental ambitions.

Wates launches its new Wates Innovation Network (WIN) portal and Dr Zainab Dangana, Head of Wates Sustainable Technology Services, explains how this latest development will help support companies in their journey towards net zero buildings.

When the Government set the net zero target in June 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. But by March the following year we were in the grip of a global pandemic; one of greatest challenges to peacetime Britain could easily have temporarily put the climate crisis in the shade.

However, the Government soon made clear that its plans to rebuild the economy would include building back greener. With this came a £134m investment to keep the greenest, most innovative businesses thriving in order to help others meet their environmental targets.

At Wates Sustainable Technology Services (WSTS), we work with sustainable technology start-ups and small businesses, and we’ve seen first-hand the powerful impact they can have on our customers. So far, we’ve introduced more than 125 of our customers to our ever-growing network of SME innovation partners, not only linking major businesses to new sustainable technology which they might never have been exposed to, but also giving an important boost to the innovation network. Right now, that support is essential.

Achieving government targets

The impact of COVID-19 has been immense on small business, with 80% reporting falling revenues, and a projected 60% facing collapse by April, if current economic conditions continue . Sustainable technology companies have always faced challenges in bringing their innovative products to market; as part of my PhD which was focused around sustainable technology, my research found that only around 5% of the total population of products ever found their way to market and those making procurement decisions have either been unaware of their existence, or the pioneers behind them haven’t had the means to reach them.

When we set up WSTS, it was to help bridge this gap. We could use our influence within the construction, residential and property services sectors to act as an ‘innovation broker’ between our customers and the sustainable technology marketplace. In the beginning, it was sometimes a challenge to get major customers to take a risk with new technology, but as the climate emergency has worsened, the interest in what we can offer has risen. It’s meant we’ve linked Wates customers such as a leading UK banking group with tech providers who can help it reduce its carbon footprint across more than 1,300 of its buildings. We’ve identified 20 potential sustainable innovations which might help, with nine already in trial at various sites across the estate. One already in place is Endotherm, an energy and gas saving central heating additive, that has been independently proven to save up to 15% on heating bills.


Gateway to green solutions

We are now connected to 42 tried and tested suppliers, and this number is growing all the time, as new members join our network. We’re also seeing a major uptick in interest from our customers, as they’re now coming to terms with having to meet their own challenging environmental goals. This increase in demand means we want to find ways of connecting more companies with our sustainable technology supplier portfolio, and our solution is the WIN Portal, a free-to-access online hub through which they can directly access a growing directory of approved suppliers. It includes a self-service directory which can be filtered, depending on customers’ requirements, allowing them to find the best sustainable solution for their requirements, without needing our immediate input.

What’s more, we’re no longer limiting our work to our own customers, but by providing the information as open source, we hope that more organisations and businesses will get to learn more about the burgeoning marketplace for green products. Any innovation which features on our portal will be subject to our technical screening panel, including more than 40 environmental experts from organisations such as the BRE Trust and AMD Environmental. They regularly review and approve new suppliers to ensure we maintain our position as a trusted and fair source of sustainable innovations.

For SMEs, finding a route to market is always difficult and identifying the key people to pitch the ideas and products to is even harder. Equally, for large companies with multiple stakeholders, sourcing innovative technologies with the potential for green efficiencies across a property portfolio can be a shared goal but challenging to deliver in practice. The Wates Innovation Network has a two-fold purpose it provides a platform for new and emerging technologies, as well as a clear means for companies to source innovative products at a time and place that suits them.

It truly is a ‘win-win’ for SMEs and the sustainability agenda, at a time when the UK needs it most.